Truffaut: A Biography

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9780375400896: Truffaut: A Biography

One of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, Francois Truffaut was an intensely private individual who cultivated the public image of a man completely consumed by his craft. But his personal story--from which he drew extensively to create the characters and plots of his films--is itself an extraordinary human drama. Now, with captivating immediacy, Antoine de Baecque and Serge Toubiana give us the definitive story of this beloved artist.

They begin with the unwanted, mischievous child who learned to love movies and books as an escape from sadness and confusion: as a boy, Francois came to identify with screen characters and to worship actresses. Following his early adult years as a journalist, during which he gained fame as France's most iconoclastic film critic, the obsessive prodigy began to make films of his own, and before he was thirty, notched the two masterpieces The 400 Blows and Jules and Jim. As Truffaut's dazzling body of work evolves, in the shadow of the politics of his day, including the student uprisings of 1968, we watch him learning the lessons of his masters Fellini and Hitchcock. And we witness the progress of his often tempestuous personal relationships, including his violent falling-out with Jean-Luc Godard (who owed Truffaut the idea for Breathless) and his rapturous love affairs with the many glamorous actresses he directed, among them Jacqueline Bisset and Jeanne Moreau. With Fanny Ardant, Truffaut had a child only thirteen months before dying of a brain tumor at the age of fifty-two.

Here is a life of astonishing emotional range, from the anguish of severe depression to the exaltation of Oscar victory. Based on unprecedented access to Truffaut's papers, including notes toward an unwritten autobiography, de Baecque and Toubiana's richly detailed work is an incomparably authoritative revelation of a singular genius.

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Review:

The mass movie audience knows him best as the sweet French scientist in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but François Truffaut (1932-1984) made his first thunderous impact on world cinema as "that young thug of journalism." In the 1950s, as this culturally savvy biography by two French film journalists reminds us, Truffaut and a group of like-minded friends at the legendary Cahiers du Cinéma blasted traditional French film as too literary and polished. They proclaimed the birth of rougher, more personal moviemaking by "auteurs" (directors who wrote their own scripts) who were as intoxicated by the medium's possibilities as by the classic Hollywood movies these Young Turks adored. Truffaut practiced what he preached in early films like The Four Hundred Blows and Jules and Jim, which electrified a new generation of American directors who came of age in the 1960s. His private life was just as unconventional: though divorced from his first wife in 1965, they remained business associates through his many affairs with actresses (to whom he was also chronically unfaithful), and he even moved back in with her for a while when the brain tumor that ultimately killed him made it impossible to function alone. His biographers convey all this turbulent material with Gallic lucidity and toughness, seeing no need to make their subject conventionally lovable by softening his sharp edges. --Wendy Smith

About the Author:

Antoine do Baecque is Editor-in-Chief of Cahiers du Cinéma. He is at work on a book about French New Wave cinema. Serge Toubiana has headed Cahiers du Cinéma since 1981. In 1993, he codirected a documentary titled François Truffaut: Stolen Portraits.

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